This made-from-scratch Twisted Macaroni and Cheese is ooey gooey deliciousness ideal for any occasion. It's smothered with a homemade cheese sauce, that features a blend of three varieties of cheese, for optimum cheesy flavor.
Twisted Macaroni and Cheese
What is it about mac and cheese? It's one of those cheesy side dishes that kids of all ages love. There are many variations, and I reach for a different one each time I make macaroni and cheese for my family. I love making classic dishes with a small twist, pardon the pun, and this twisted mac and cheese is one such example.
Macaroni and Cheese Variations
On a busy day, I often make slow cooked mac and cheese or Southern style macaroni and cheese for dinner. The bonus is, the sauce for each one requires no additional cooking. For special gatherings crab macaroni and cheese always makes a splash, and my 5 cheese holiday macaroni and cheese is extra special with a blend of cheese that takes it to another level. Macaroni and cheese can be an entrée, or the complementary side to chicken, pork or grilled steak. In short, there's simply no wrong time to serve it. Ever.
Helpful Tips for Making Macaroni and Cheese
- One of the most important things to remember when cooking macaroni, is not to overcook the pasta. If you do, it can become mushy when baking.
- When making the cheese sauce, cook the bechamel until it's thickened to the point of a thin pudding. When adding the shredded cheese, it will thicken further.
- You can use twisted macaroni or cavatappi pasta for this dish.
- As with any dish, you can adapt using any variety of cheese that you enjoy. This version works particularly well with the blend called for of cheddar, colby jack and creamy fontina cheese.
- If you like, you may top with 1 cup seasoned, buttered bread crumbs prior to baking.
- This macaroni and cheese can be baked in any similar size oven safe skillet or 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
- Allow a few minutes of stand time at the end of baking, to give the sauce time to thicken to perfection, before serving.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
Twisted Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 16 oz box twisted macaroni or cavatappi pasta
- ½ cup salted butter, plus 2 Tbsp divided
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 5 cups whole milk
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper adjust to taste
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1/16 tsp ground nutmeg (pinch)
- few dashes hot sauce optional
- 2 cups shredded colby-jack cheese
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 cups shredded fontina or gruyere cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush a 12 inch cast iron skillet with ½ Tbsp softened butter, reserving remaining 1 ½ Tbsp for top. Set aside. (Alternately, bake in any similar size oven safe skillet or 13 x 9 inch baking dish)
- Cook macaroni in salted water per the package instructions until al dente. Drain well, then add to a large mixing bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a 4 quart heavy bottomed saucepan, melt ½ cup butter over medium heat. Add flour, mixing until flour is absorbed. Cook for 1 minute, while stirring.
- To the saucepan add, Dijon, salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg and a dash or two, of hot sauce. Mix well. Gradually whisk in milk.
- Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Immediately turn the heat to low. Simmer gently bubbling for 5 minutes. Stir periodically to prevent sticking.
- Toss together all three varieties of shredded cheese. Add 4 cups to sauce. Mix until completely melted, remove from heat.
- Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta in mixing bowl, mix until evenly coated.
- Pour half macaroni into buttered cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheese blend. Pour remaining macaroni evenly on top.
- Sprinkle macaroni with remaining 1 cup shredded cheese. Dot the top with reserved 1 ½ Tbsp butter.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until bubbly and golden.
- Let stand on counter for 10 minutes, then serve.